There’s something about Beethoven’s compositions that keep me returning to them.
His writing is real, free from pretence, free from the need to comply with the musical tastes and culture of his time. They are spontaneous and original. Dramatic and passionate.
For Beethoven, music was not mere entertainment, but a moral force capable of creating a vision of higher ideals. His music directly reflects his powerful, tortured personality. In both art and life, his heroic struggle resulted in victory over despair.
His works can be divided into three periods: the period of imitation or assimilation, the period of realisation and the period of contemplation. The writings of his first period generally conform to the Classic shape bequeathed by Mozart and Haydn. Beethoven could not hide his originality for long, however. The second period marks his free rein in composition, as well as his “heroic” style of writing. As his musical career began to peak, his hearing began to deteriorate and became almost completely deaf in the last decade of his life. He gave up conducting and performing in public but continued to compose; many of his most poignant and meaningful works come from this third period.
Apart from deafness, Beethoven went through several failed love relationships and was also deeply affected by the fight for custody over his nephew, which resulted in an attempted suicide by the latter.
Fur Elise, Ode to Joy and the dramatic opening to his Symphony Number 5 are some of his best-known and loved works. But unless one studies deeper into his writings, his extraordinary genius and creativity will remain undiscovered.
His music is the perfect picture of beauty wrought through pain.
John Gillespie writes, “His confident spirit and artistic integrity, which made possible the tumultuous, passionate works of the second period, stayed with him to the end of his life. When his everyday existence turned into disorder, when he shunned his friends, when his health failed, still inner power and conviction sustained him. This enabled him to rise above the daily vicissitudes, and he went on to create nobler keyboard sonatas than ever before.”